Akira was still pouting after Alpha poked fun at him, but then Kanae suddenly spoke to him as if she could not read the mood.
“Akira! We meet again!!”
Akira replied as if he was not interested in talking with Kanae at the moment, but she ignored that.
“But still, what a coincidence to meet you in this place. If youre going to come here, you should have come with us right from the start, you know”
“Im here not because I planned to come here right from the start and its not like I came to this building to rescue you in the first place. You should ask Shikarabe for the details.”
“Is that so Well, whichever the case, thanks for saving us.”
For some reason, Kanae was looking at Akira with interest. In contrast to that, Akira looked at Kanae with a little suspicion. It was because he had no idea why Kanae was so interested in talking to him.
To be more precise, it was just that Kanae had no reservation when it came to approaching someone else, while on the other hand, Akira was being careful to anyone who approached him without any good reasons. Both of them simply did not suit each other.
Kanae was interested in Akiras strength, a part of it was because she could not figure out how strong Akira was.
From the story that she heard, she knew that Akira could fight evenly against Shiori when she was using her trump card in the underground city of Kuzusuhara ruin. Shioris trump card was a special accelerator drug that increased concentration, sharpened sense, and slowed down time perception. The price of using that drug was putting ones brain under immense stress that might render its user paralyzed for a few days, but in exchange for that, it could completely transform its user into a superhuman while that drug was still in effect. So, the only people who could fight Shiori in that state must be powerful people.
But when Akira faced Katsuya during that incident with a pickpocket girl, even after Akira released an excessive level of killing intent, he ended up slowly retreating back. In reality, since Kanae left that place with Reina and Shiori early, she could only hear what happened after they left from the other people. But from what she heard, it seemed that in the end Katsuya did not hand over that girl to Akira, and Akira just silently left.
It was true that Katsuya was a powerful Hunter, but compared to Shiori with her accelerator drug, he was obviously weaker. So, since Akira retreated back from Katsuya, then it would mean Akira was not that strong.
While on the other hand, Shikarabe and Akira got pretty close to the room where Kanae was hiding with Reina and Shiori. When she was about to go down the stairs, Kanae glanced around to check the situation, and judging from what she could see, they would have fought their way through the monsters to get that close to that room, which meant that Akira must be pretty strong.
And that Akira was now right in front of her. Kanae was pretty confident in her ability to evaluate someone with her eyes. And from what she could see, Akira was indeed pretty strong for a Hunter of his age, that was all there was to it, nothing more. So in short, Akira did not seem that particularly strong. She could not feel a trace of vigour, pressure, or aura that strong people usually had. He seemed to be just a common Hunter like all the other Hunters in the eastern district.
Kanae had enough reason to think that Akira was not that strong, while at the same time, she also had enough evidence to believe that Akira was pretty strong. Because of that, Kanae could not say for sure how strong he really was.
She was smiling while guessing Akiras real strength.
[Yup, no idea at all. I cant really tell if Akira is strong or not. Honestly speaking, I want to poke at him to see how strong he really is, but as expected, I shouldnt do that in this situation.]
Kanaes impression of Akira was simply someone whose strength was unknown to her.
Even for someone like Kanae, she knew that she had to prioritize her current duty at the moment. So in short, if they were in a different situation, she might have already poked at Akira right now. Kanae honestly felt a bit bummed by that.
Togami and Reina were really stressed out as they were trying to catch their breath, but after staying in that safe place for some time, both of them eventually were able to calm down. Once they had calmed down and had enough leeway to put some of their attention to the current situation, both of them immediately directed their gaze to things that bothered them the most.
For Reina, it was Carol. While for Togami, it was Kanae and Shiori. But technically speaking, both of them were bothered by the same thing, their appearances.
Reina looked at Carol and thought.
[…What is with that augmented suit Its really something… Or more like, no matter how you look at it, its designed for seducing men, right Although I heard that some old-world augmented suits have that kind of design, its the first time for me to see someone actually using it. Is it just an augmented suit from the current era but with an old-world design Or is it an old-world relic Whichever the case, Im impressed that shes actually using it. Is it a matter of getting used to that design The curve is pretty intense too… Is it just that it looks intense simply because of the design]
Reina looked really bothered as she was staring at Carols augmented suit.
At the same time, Togami looked at Kanae and Shioris maid outfit and thought.
[…That thing is a maid outfit, right And maids are those people who serve in a big mansion for rich people, right So why are there maids in this old-world ruin Are those maid outfits actually old-world relics with strong defensive power and theyre using it in place of normal armour But for some reason, they look pretty much used to it though, it doesnt feel like theyre Hunters. But Shikarabe said that our rescue targets are Drankam Hunters, right… Wait, he might be talking about Reina and those two might be Reinas maid… But again, why would a Hunter have maids]
Togami seemed so confused as he was staring at Shiori and Kanae.
Shiori was standing next to Reina, offering her a stamina drink. Reina thanked Shiori and drank it.
Shiori noticed that Togami was looking in her direction, but she did not pay much attention to it. She herself understood that her maid outfit would attract some attention. And as long as she was there as Reinas maid, there was no need to put too much attention to what other people thought or said.
After Carol finished her preparation, she nibbled on a ration that looked like grilled rice dumplings. Although it looked like a simple snack from the outside, it was actually infused with restorative and healing properties. It also replenished the nanomachines that she used during the last fight. For Carol, consuming that food was equally important as replenishing her reserve ammo.
Carol also noticed that Reina was looking at her, but she just ignored that. Although the design of her augmented suit was made to seduce men, it sometimes also attracted attention from the other women. Some women who were not used to seeing old-world design often threw glances at her out of pure curiosity without any ill will. There were also girls who did not like having a Hunter in that appearance near them. Even Carol herself knew that much. She thought as long as Reina did not complain or say anything about her appearance, then there was no reason to be bothered by that.
Kanae then turned to Togami who was looking at Shiori, so she then looked at Shiori before shifting to Reina, who was next to Shiori. Since Reina was looking at Carol, Kanaes eyes soon ended up on Carol.
Kanae was somehow smiling amusedly, she then threw a smile at Carol.
“Whoah! That augmented suit is really something!!”
Akira was caught by surprise, he did not expect that Kanae would go and ask that question. Akira looked around and noticed that most of the Hunters there had the same impression as him.
Carol was lightly surprised as she turned to Kanae. After all, to her, it did not seem like Kanae was someone who paid attention to appearances.
Carol smiled confidently as she replied to Kanaes remark.
“I wont deny that, but I dont want someone in a maid outfit to say that to me.”
Akira unconsciously nodded lightly. What Carol said did make sense and Akira could feel that the other Hunters there would agree with him.
Kanae smiled back and said.
“This is a maid outfit. It would be great if you dont treat it the same as that augmented suit with a design that is obviously for seducing men. No matter how you look at it, your design sticks out far more than this. Or is that youre already used to that design”
Carol smiled and replied.
“Thats weird for you to say that when you voluntarily use that maid outfit and come all the way here to an old-world ruin when there are many armours out there with the same fighting capability. I dont know whose maid you are, but I wonder if that person doesnt think that itll be sticking out. Or is it out of fetish or something”
Kanae and Carol were smiling at each other. Although it was not exactly a friendly exchange, it was not a hostile exchange either. It did not feel like they were challenging each other and picking a fight.
As Akira was looking at both of them with a slightly troubled face, Kanae suddenly turned to him and threw a question.
“Akira, which one do you think is weirder”
Akira obviously looked troubled when Kanae suddenly threw that question at him, but then Carol asked a similar question to him too.
“Oh, good idea. Akira, which one do you think is the weird one Which one do you think sticking out the most”
Instead of answering their questions, Akira asked a question to both of them.
“…Why are you both asking me”
Kanae and Carol replied with similar answers as if they had already decided to do that beforehand.
“Isnt it fine Its just out of curiosity.”
“Isnt it fine Its just out of a whim.”
Akira looked around, Elena and Sara were holding back their laughter. Shikarabe looked like he did not care at all, Reina and Togami looked at Akira as if they were waiting for Akiras answer, and Shiori was just standing next to Reina with a neutral face.
Akira could feel an awkward mood drifting in the room, he then answered back honestly.
“Personally speaking, if its on the first sight, I think the maid outfit sticks out more. For Carols augmented suit, its just a normal augmented suit with an old-world design after all… And I bet that its not normal to see maids whether its only an outfit or a real maid in the old-world ruin.”
Akiras response was extremely biased since he had already become used to seeing old-world design because of Alpha. His opinion might be very uncommon for people around his age. As in matter of fact, Reina and Togami were obviously surprised by Akiras answer.
After listening to Akiras answer, Carol sported a winning smile. While on the other hand, Kanae lightly waved her hand left and right while shaking her head too. She then spoke to Akira like a veteran talking to a complete beginner.
“Akira, it seems that you still dont understand how wide this world is.”
Akira casually replied.
“Yeah, Ive been pretty much living in a narrow world until now after all. Sorry about that.”
Elena lightly giggled as she joined in.
“We should go soon, if you have the time for silly talk like that, I trust that youve finished your preparation, yes”
Akiras expression turned serious.
“Yeah, I can go anytime.”
“Ready when you are.”
Kanae sounded like she was in a good mood as she said that and returned back to Reina.
Carol still kept her eyes on Kanae when she answered Elenas question.
“Yeah, no problem here.”
Carol was looking at Kanae as if she had a question in her head.
[…I feel like she asked me that because she was probing for something though, is it only my imagination Is that simply out of habit It doesnt seem her companions are bothered by that either…]
Carol just concluded that Kanae did that simply out of habit and decided to stop thinking about it.
Once Kanae returned to Reina and Shiori, Shiori whispered to Kanae.
“I dont know what you were planning there, but hold yourself from doing anything that might cause a fight.”
Kanae replied back as if it did not bother her at all.
“Well, isnt it fine It seems that Milady was wondering about it, so I was asking that question in her stead. Its no good you know, Milady, you should not stare at a Hunter whom you dont know well that intently. Depending on that Hunter, it might be interpreted as picking a fight after all, okay”
Reina pouted and tried to deny it.
“…Its better than asking that question straight at her, after all, its more or less the same as already picking a fight when you do that, you know”
Kanae was still smiling as usual when she replied back.
“I dont have any problem if she accepts it, thats the biggest difference between me and Milady. Milady, dont tell me that you think its okay to be a bit cheeky just because were protecting you and well definitely do something about it when things get bad Dont tell me thats why you keep glancing at her Its a big problem depending on whether you do that on purpose or not, you see.”
Reina could not say anything back. Although she did not do that on purpose, it was also true that she could not give a straight answer if she was asked whether she did that thinking that Kanae and Shiori would definitely do something about it if things went bad.
Shiori lightly sighed.
“Just try to behave yourself. If you get ahead of yourself, Ill cut you.”
Kanae replied back in a good spirit. It was hard to say from her personality whether she responded positively to behave or that she was happy because it sounded like Shiori was willing to fight her. But at least, Kanae decided to just shut up, so Shiori did not pursue any further.
Kanae glanced at Akira and thought.
[…I tried to surprise Akira there with that sudden question, but it seems that he did lower his guard. It also seemed that he was pretty much relaxed while we were talking. As I thought, I guess that Akira is not really that strong, huh Or was that only an act Or is it that hes someone who totally changes when hes in the middle of a fight Uhhh, I still dont have enough material to make any conclusion.]
Kanae was thinking so as she lowered her evaluation of Akira. After all, that was what she could get from her own observation if she did not include stories that she heard from other people.
Kanae was smiling, she was hoping that there would come a chance when she could get better information to accurately predict Akiras real strength.
After everyone finished their preparations, Elena then explained the next plan.
“Well go down to the first floor from here and escape the building from the front entrance. Lets hope that the squads securing this building are still alive.”
Shikarabe felt there was something strange in how Elena worded her plan.
“Is there any reason for us to worry whether the squads outside are still alive or not”
Elena lightly nodded.
“Yes. You already know that I left mini information-gathering devices on our way up to make sure that we have a safe escape route, right So basically, the mini information-gathering device on the first floor near the entrance got some signals. It seems that multiple entities entered this building.”
Carol then said to Elena.
“Can you tell me exactly the shape of this something that entered this building”
If they had a human-like form, then it might be the other Hunters. Or at least, that was what Carol was hoping, but Elena lightly shook her head and said.
“Unfortunately, the device was not able to identify their shapes, and the sensitivity is lowered inside this building. So I cant say anything about their shapes. The only thing that I can say for sure is that something came into this building. Although I did say multiple entities, it might be the same object going in and out of the building multiple times on purpose to trigger the signal multiple times. So I cant really confirm the numbers too.”
This time, Akira was the one who asked a question to Elena.
“Is there any chance that they are a reconnaissance team just like us or might even be the main rescue squad”
“That possibility is not zero. But if thats really the case, it might be the reconnaissance team. After all, its unthinkable for them to send the main squad after sending us, the reconnaissance team, into this building without waiting for us to return first. Either way, just keep in mind that we might spot other Hunters on our way down, make sure not to shoot them by mistake.”
Akira nodded firmly. Elena lightly smiled and nodded back at him.
Elenas face then returned back to her serious face.
“The real problem is if thats not the case, which would mean more monsters just entered the building, that would also mean that those monsters broke through the encirclement made to secure this building. Theres a good chance the situation outside the building has turned dangerous, although the possibility is pretty small, I recommend you to at least keep this in mind. After all, no one can tell what will happen from here on.”
Elena remembered the big monster that attacked them on the 30th floor as she warned everyone.
“If no one has any more question, lets move out.”
With that sentence, they started the operation to escape the building.
While on the first floor, 2 groups of Hunters were debating each other, they were the group made of Hunters from Drankam and another group that was made of Hunters unaffiliated with Drankam. All of them were Hunters who successfully hunted bounty monsters in the past.
Back then when they were in the middle of debating on how to secure the Seranthal building, Elenas team finished their negotiation first and was sent ahead as a reconnaissance team. When that happened, there were 2 groups who felt that they got jumped ahead by Elenas team.
The first group was the Hunters not affiliated with Drankam and refused to be working under Drankam. They thought that sending Akira ahead was the decision that the Drankam side made. They thought that Drankam gave preferential treatment to that team stating an excusing that they brought back useful information for the operation.
That was not exactly wrong, Shikarabe did say that too when he negotiated with Drankams side. As in matter of fact, the information that they brought in might have actually be used in that operation.
So in order to calm them down, Drankam decided to make a compromise and send them as another reconnaissance team.
The second group was the young Hunters in Drankam that belonged to the Katsuya faction. To be more precise, they were able to get dispatched ahead because of support from within Drankam, from Mizuha.
Mizuha was rather concerned by the fact that Shikarabe was the leader of the first reconnaissance team. She also knew well how much Shikarabe hated Katsuyas guts. She was worried that Shikarabe was planning to use the achievement from this chance to influence the composition of the main squad or even to change how Drankam would treat Katsuya.
So in order to fight back against Shikarabe, Mizuha even made some compromises about the main squad so that she could send ahead another reconnaissance team to the Seranthal building.
After that, both teams were sent to secure the first floor of the Seranthal building so that Elenas team would not be able to monopolize the rewards. They thought that it might be hard for Elenas team to do that since they had limited equipment and manpower, but it would be an easy job for them since they brought more people and carried better equipment. Of course, they could just gather information and bring it back too, but if they ended up bringing back the same information as Elenas team, then Elenas team which would have returned back first would claim the reward first.
Although both groups of Hunters were not that hostile to each other to the point that they would try to kill each other, there was no mistaking it that they would be disrupting each others job. Even a small accident could immediately turn into a fight. The leader of each team was only barely able to calm their respective team down.
Near the outer side of the front entrance to the Seranthal building, a Hunter by the name of Kurosawa was shouting orders to his team with an annoyed face. His equipment and the aura around him clearly showed that he was a powerful Hunter.
Kurosawa was the leader of the team which killed the 1,500,000,000 Aurum bounty monster, Maimai. He was taking the lead of the anti-Drankam team this time.
Kurosawa looked at his watch and clicked his tongue.
“…The sixth squad isnt returning back at all although I told them to properly watch the time. Send the eighth squad in. Tell them to ask the squad securing the A, B, C and D stairs if the sixth squad went to the second floor without my permission or not.”
Another Hunter next to him then replied.
“I bet theyll be back if we just wait a bit longer.”
Kurosawa glared at that Hunter.
“We cant check their situation at all from the first floor. There are 3 possible reasons why they are late. First, they might be trapped somewhere and cant return back. Second, they might not be that competent to be able to return back as we originally planned. Or third, they might be pretty stupid as not to listen to my order. But whichever the case, we treat them as MIA. Theres no need to wait for them.”
“Alright alright, Ill send the next- Oh, there they are.”
The sixth squad stepped out from the entrance. Kurosawa signalled them to come with his finger. Once they stood in front of him, Kurosawa then asked them a question that was mixed with insult.
“From what I can see, it doesnt seem any of you are injured Were you almost killed somewhere or something”
The leader of that squad sighed and answered that question.
“We were about to return back on time when one of those kids picked a fight with us, you see. If you tell us that its okay to shoot them, we would have been able to return back on time though.”
Kurosawa clicked his tongue again when he heard that. He then gave a signal for the sixth squad to just go and take a rest before he headed to where the Drankam sides leader was.
The leader of the Drankam group immediately noticed Kurosawa. The other young Hunters around him looked at Kurosawa with hostility, but Kurosawa did not care about them at all as he said to the leader of the Drankam group.
“It seems that some of your people picked a fight with my men, can you at least properly discipline them I dont mind if you want to keep on playing around here, but I have no plans to tidy up your mess.”
That young Hunter glared back at Kurosawa as if he was trying to put Kurosawa under some pressure.
“If thats really the case, were sorry. And also, stop saying something like that, everyone here is being serious.”
That young Hunter responded back just like a Hunter should. The impression that he was giving off was different compared to those new green Hunters or former Hunters. A skilled Hunter would be able to immediately recognize his real strength and disregard his young age.
That was also the case for Kurosawa, he knew that the young Hunter in front of him was a rather talented Hunter. Although for now, he was nothing more than a skilled young Hunter, it was only a matter of time until theyoung word get dropped.
The young Hunter in front of him might be a stronger Hunter than him in the future, but that was still in the future, not now. Kurosawa looked down at the weaker Hunter standing in front of him and said to him with mockery.
“Im being serious here. If we objectively evaluate your performance, that would be the result. Im not a Drankam Hunter after all, so Im not obliged to choose my words just to keep your mood, am I right, Katsuya-kun of Drankam”
The leader of the Drankam team was Katsuya.
Katsuya glared even more intensely at Kurosawa, but Kurosawa just ignored him.-